Anatomy Of A Successful SaaS Company Founder

Co-written with my colleague Neeraj Agrawal and originally appeared in Forbes.

How do you build a billion-dollar SaaS enterprise software company? For one thing, you might start with a CEO who looks less like Box’s youthful Aaron Levie and more like Salesforce’s Marc Benioff—and stick with him for the long term. The current obsession with millennials running things doesn’t pencil out when it comes to one particularly important slice of the tech economy.

We recently analyzed the people running the 65 leading public and private companies in our SaaS Success Database, a list we first published earlier this year. It includes companies with a realized exit of at least $500 million and private companies valued north of $1 billion. Some 60% of the founding CEOs at these companies—all standouts in their respective markets–started their companies while in their 30s, while nearly 20% did so while over 40. Benioff was 35 when he left Oracle to start Salesforce; only 20% of the executives on our list were in their 20s, like Levie, and college dropouts like the Box founder were even more rare.